Monday, September 10, 2018

I, Beer: What Goes Into Brewing

I, Pencil is a classic economics essay from 1958 by Leonard Read about the complexity of making a pencil. The iconic yellow #2 seems so simple, yet no one person could make it on their own (e.g., harvest the rubber, synthesis the polymers and pigments for the eraser, create the yellow paint, precisely cut the wood and graphite, mine and forge the metal band etc. ). The global economy doesn't have any person or group coordinating all of this activity, but to earn money people and companies fill niches, specialize, and compete to buy and sell in ways that creates things of immense complexity requiring the sum work of hundreds of people across continents so you can buy a pencil for $.25. This video gives a more hands-on view of what it takes to make a chicken sandwich when you don't buy anything from a supermarket.

It is tempting to say that beer isn’t like that. After all, each all-grain batch starts with the four basic ingredients and we do the rest… sure it would be a challenge to grow and malt barley, harvest and dry hops, isolate/propagate wild yeast, and haul water from a local stream, but what vessels would you use to boil/ferment? What about sanitizer, minerals, clarifiers, compressed CO2?

What follows is a high-level overview of what is required to brew a single batch of beer at Sapwood Cellars. Obviously, you could keep digging deeper into each one of these, peeling back layer-after-layer to the inputs of each input (e.g., the shoes that the hop harvester was wearing). I’ll arbitrarily stop where I lose interest. Needless to say though, the work of thousands in not millions of people goes into each of our batches. Scott and I just get the credit (or blame) because we're the ones at the end of the chain!

Ingredients

Water

Our water comes from Liberty Reservoir. From there it goes to Baltimore’s Ashburton water treatment plant. Baltibrew posted a nice series on the Baltimore water system. Luckily for us the existing minerals are mostly beneficial to the character of our beer. The carbonate is a bit higher than we’d like, but not by enough to require the waste of reverse osmosis.

Once pipes take it to the brewery it passes through a carbon filter to remove chlorine, and then an on-demand hot water heater. The fuel is natural gas piped into the brewery by BG&E (by way of fracking or older methods, and then refining). From there the water travels through a hose to our hot liquor tank where an electric element allows us to adjust the temperature. The electricity comes from a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear, and ~5% renewables.

To adjust the mineral content of the water, we add calcium chloride (from limestone-hydrochloric acid reaction or natural brine concentration) and calcium sulfate (harvested and refined from gypsum rock deposits). In addition, we add 75% phosphoric acid to adjust the pH of the water. Phosphoric acid is usually produced by combustion, hydration, and demisted from three ingredients: phosphorus, air, and water.


Grains

The grain we mash is a mixture of barley, wheat, oats, and rye depending on the beer. These are grown primarily on farms in North America and Europe. It is then soaked, sprouted, dried, and kilned by a maltster. The precise equipment required varies by malt and producer. In some cases it is a large industrial operation, in others the malt is still manually turned. The bulk of our base malt is Rahr brewer’s 2-row from Minnesota, but in our first order we also had sacks from Briess, Chateau, Simpsons, Crisp, Best etc. Most of the unmalted flaked grains (steamed and rolled to gelatinize their starches) are from Grain Millers.

We decided to hold-off on buying our own mill, to save the cost at the start… but after a few brews I can say a mill and auger are in our near future. We order our grains from Brewers Supply Group, which pre-mills the grain. We also occasionally add a few sacks to a Maryland Homebrew order from Country Malt.

Once we’re done with the now “spent” grain, they are picked-up by Keith of Porch View Farms. He feeds it to his animals as most of the carbohydrates are extracted into the wort, but proteins remain.


Hops

Our hops are grown throughout the higher latitudes of the globe, primarily the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but also Australia, Germany, and Czech Republic. The hops are first stripped from their bines, dried in an oast, and then baled. After selection, various lots are blended to create a consistent product and the hops are pulverized and pelletized. They are then vacuum-packed in mylar and stored cold to preserve their aromatics. Our hops primarily came from Hop Havoc, but we’re working on getting contracts for the upcoming harvest.


Yeast

Most of the yeast we’re using are the decedents of yeast that have been fermenting beer for hundreds or thousands of years. A couple hundred years ago their ancestors were part of a mixed-culture at breweries in England and Belgium, only to be lucky (and talented) enough to be isolated as a pure culture that gained success. Our Saccharomyces cerevisiae so far has come from RVA, Fermentis, and Lallemand for our “clean” beers. These needed to be isolated, propagated, and in some cases dried.

The sour and wild beers are too complex to track. They come from labs, bottle dregs, and a house culture. They may have come via a barrel, the breeze, an insect, or any number of other vectors into a brewery or labs. For example the Hanseniaspora vineae we are fermenting a hoppy sour for Denizen's Make It Funky festival came from Wild Pitch Yeast which isolated it from tree bark.


Fruit

We don’t have any beers far enough along for fruit, but we’re planning to source as much of it as we can directly from local farms and orchards. Most fruit is at its best when it is picked ripe and used quickly. I'm sure we'll use dried fruit, aseptic purees, juices, and freeze-dried fruits depending on quality, availability, and desired results as well. The first batch will probably be a tart saison on grape pumace (the pressed skins) from a local natural winery.


Other Consumables

Gas

Carbon dioxide is usually produced as a byproduct of some other activity (e.g., hydrocarbon processing). Our CO2 is stored in a 750 lb tank in a liquid state. We use it to carbonate and serve beer. It isn't economical at our scale to recapture the CO2 released by fermentation. Our supplier is Robert’s Oxygen.

As the air on Earth is 70% nitrogen it is usually concentrated with the use of a nitrogen generator. These rely on a membrane that allows nitrogen through. We need nitrogen to help push the beer through the long-lines from our walk-in to the tasting room (pure CO2 would lead to over-carbonation at those pressures). As the second most abundant gas in the atmosphere, oxygen generation uses similar technologies. We pump .5L/minute into the wort as it exits the heat exchanger, the yeast quickly uses it to create sterols for healthy cell walls when they bud. We get these two gases in large cylinders that are swapped out.

Chemicals

We need cleaners like caustic (sodium hydroxide) to remove organic deposits, and a phosphoric-nitric acid blend to remove inorganic beer stone and passivate the stainless steel. For sanitation we use iodophor for fittings in buckets, and peracetic acid for the tanks. These are made in a variety of industrial processes that I’m totally unaware of. Our chemicals are provided by Zep/AFCO.

Clarifier

Whirlfloc G helps proteins clump together in the last 15 minutes of the boil to be left behind. It is derived from Irish moss (seaweed) that is dried and granulated. As a vegan brewery, no gelatin or isinglass for us.

Barrels

Oak barrels start as oak trees. They are processed into planks, and then purchased by a cooperage which dries (either in a kiln or naturally). They are then assembled into barrels with metal hops, toasted, and sealed. From there they go to vineyards and distilleries that age their products in them. Beer is best in barrels that have already lost much of their oak character, so we buy them from other producers. A small amount of the wine or spirit is still present in the wood, providing a moderate contribution to the first batch, diminishing with each additional batch.


Equipment

The stainless steal for the vast majority of our equipment comes from China. Our brewhouse was constructed by Forgeworks in Colorado. Our fermentors and bright tank from Apex and DME in China. Our keg washer from Colorado Brewing.

The cooling of the fermentors is accomplished by a glycol chiller from G&D Chillers in Oregon. The ethylene glycol itself comes from ethylene and oxygen. The chiller also assists chilling the wort with our two-stage Thermaline heat exchanger (primarily more stainless steel). The copper pipes that carry the glycol are insulated with Armaflex. The flow of the glycol to individual tanks is controlled by electronic temperature sensors and solenoid valves.

Other equipment includes hydrometer, refractometer, pH meter, hoses, gaskets, and all manner of other valves and fittings.

For the space itself there was already plenty of concrete, bricks and metal. We hired Kolb Electric and B&B Pipefitters to do the installation of the bulk of the wires, pipes, and connections.

There is also everything that goes into serving a beer once it is ready. Kegs (Corny kegs for the sours and infusions, sanke for the standard clean beers), stainless steel fittings, beer lines, glasses (including the printed logo and the glasswasher) etc.


What’s the Point?

I don’t really have one. To me it is just remarkable how much of the complexity of brewing a batch of beer is now hidden in the inputs. I know how to brew beer at my house or a brewery, but if you put me out in the woods even with all the ingredients, I couldn’t brew a batch. Thinking about what is required for each batch makes me appreciate how nice it is to live in a time when I can brew beer as simply as going online and ordering the equipment and ingredients I want. It also shows me how much I still have to learn about making beer.

At the same time, it means that beers everywhere are mostly separated by the choices the brewer makes rather than the availability of ingredients. The exchange of information accelerated by the Internet. I hope there continue to be regional variations, specialties, and preferences. Traveling isn't as exciting when everyone brews NEIPA and pastry stouts.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Hoppy Wheat: Hop-Stand vs. Quick Chill

There are a lot of IPA drinkers out there, but I get the feeling that there are just as many people who would enjoy the fruity-tropical flavors in New England IPAs, but were scared off by the IBU-arms-race of earlier this decade. I wanted to develop a session beer for Sapwood Cellars that showcases fruit-salad hoppiness without assertive bitterness. Sort of a Belgian white, with hops instead of spices. The result is a beer we're brewing 10 bbls of today... Ziparillo!

Dry hopping mid-fermentation is a great technique for chasing away raw-green hop aromatics that turn-off some drinkers. The problem is that adding hops early makes harvesting yeast far more difficult. Our solution was to use dried yeast. For a fraction of the price of a liquid pitch (~$60 for 500 g dried) it means we don't feel bad not cropping and repitching. Dry yeast also allows for easy strain blending by weight. In this case the test batch was 85% S-04 and 15% WB-06. The goal was to support the fruity hops with a little banana from the hefeweizen strain. An idea I first tried in my American Oat Ale.


The grist is a callback to what we developed for Modern Times Fortunate Islands, still my favorite of their regular offerings. The grains were in turn inspired by Three Floyds Gumballhead. We decided to go a bit lighter on the wheat until we get used to how large amounts of huskless grains lauter on our Forgeworks brewhouse. Hot-side hopping is a single dose of Cascade in the whirlpool. A classic variety with a good blend of oils, but without excessive alpha acids (or cost). Despite that, for the up-scale we're going to lower the whirlpool temperature to ~195F with a barrel of cold water at flame-out to keep the IBUs under 20. Dry hopping with Amarillo for stonefruit aroma.

Hefeweizen yeast, CaraVienna, Cascade, and Amarillo is a combination I tried back in 2010 for this Hoppy Hefeweizen. Not the same intended balance on that batch, but a similar palate of flavors.



The wrinkle in this test batch was that I split it pre-boil. I've been editing Scott's draft for "The New IPA" and the research suggested that many hop oils peak very quickly at higher temperatures and then dissipate. So I split the batch, half with a 20 IBU addition at 60 minutes followed by a flame-out addition immediately after turning on the immersion chiller. The other half I added a hop-stand/whirlpool addition allowing it to sit for 45 minutes before starting the chill. I even left the heat on low to better replicate the slow cooling of a commercial-scale whirlpool.

Going in I was suspicious. I'd changed from quick-chilling to hop-stands a few years ago, and felt that my beers had gotten a better more saturated hop flavor. The beers came out surprisingly similar, but not exactly the same.

Ziparillo - Quick Chill

Smell – Clean yeasty-doughy nose. Banana. Cascade grapefruitiness shines through as the dominant hop character. Certainly reminds me most of hoppy hefeweizens that I’ve brewed previously. Surprising how much yeast character there is from a low percentage of WB-06.

Appearance – Pale-gold, mildly hazy of the standard hefeweizen type. Not milky-haze. Good head retention and cling.

Taste – Bitterness is present, a bit higher than 20 IBUs in my estimate. Crisp finish with some lingering hop resin. Amarillo comes in a bit towards the end, apricot. Odd that I get the kettle hops in the nose and the dry hops in the flavor. The quick chill seems to have imparted a more dry-hop like character. Dry, with a finish that reminds me of some sort of herbal spritzer?

Mouthfeel – Snappy, good firm carbonation, but not as high as a traditional hefe. Dry, slightly tannic finish.

Drinkability & Notes – A nice session beer. The polyphenols from the early-boil addition may be making the bitterness come-across higher than the calculated IBUs would suggest.

Changes for Next Time – Drop the bittering addition to 10 IBUs, and this would be much closer to the balance I was looking for. Nice as is, but likely too bitter for many hop-phobes. Yeast character is a bit distracting.

Ziparillo - Hop Stand

Smell – Similar, but the yeast character comes across as leaning more bubblegum than banana. Slightly more phenolic as well, peppery. Hops are better integrated into the yeast character or maybe just less assertive. I get honeydew melon.

Appearance – Identical. In this case the timing of the boil hops and speed of chilling doesn’t seem to have effected clarity.

Taste – Bitterness seems lower/smoother, and the finish rounder despite the same calculated IBUs. Like the nose the line between fruity yeast and hops is less distinct than the other version. There is more banana than in the nose, but it is still relatively subdued. Hops are bright and citrusy.

Mouthfeel – Smoother, less tannic. Coating compared to the other half. That isn’t a character that necessarily sounds beneficial to a session beer, but in this case it makes it easier and more pleasant to drink.

Drinkability & Notes – Closer to what I was looking for, the hops and yeast meld together into a pleasant fruit salad. Rather than a generic fruitiness throughout the effect is different flavors from nose and mouth, evolving as it warms. One friend noted that it has sort of an Allagash White thing going on, which was exactly my intent.

Changes for Next Time – We’ll be cutting the WB-06 from 15% to 7.5% in the big batch. The taller fermentor should suppress ester production as well. We’ll add a barrel of cold water at the end of the boil to lower the temperature and further smooth the hop bitterness contributed by the whirlpool addition.


Recipe

Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 4.8
IBU: 18.3
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 4.60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
68.2 % - 15 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7 % - 5 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt
6.8 % - 1.5 lbs Briess Caravienne
2.3% - .5 lbs Rice Hulls

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

Hops
-------
V1
1.00 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 60 min
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Flame-Out
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

V2
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Whirlpool 45 min
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Other
--------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Water
-------
18.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.50 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
9.00 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
140
170
100
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
22 g SafAle English Ale S-04
4 g Safbrew Wheat WB-06

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/5/18

5.28 at mash temperature after all additions (~5.5 corrected to room temperature).

Split between two boils:

1. 1 oz of Cascade @60 min, and 3.5 oz of Cascade with a quick chill at flame-out (added hops right after starting IC).

2. 3.5 oz of Cascade with a whirlpool at 212F (with heat) for 45 minutes... mostly stayed 190-200F.

Chilled to 68F, pitched 1 pack of S-04 and 2 g of WB-06 into each (no rehydration). Shook to aerate.

Same fermentation, beer temp 65F.

8/7/15 Dry hopped ~36 hours after pitching. Set beer temp to 68F to continue fermentation.

Kegged 8/16/18

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Homegrown Sour Beer: Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry, and Mulberry

I've brewed a surprising number of beers with ingredients grown on our .1 acres of Washington, DC. Including hops, cherries, juniper, ground ivy, mulberries... and recently fermented acorns! Rather than showcase a single ingredient though, I wanted to brew an estate beer with five ingredients grown and harvested on our land!

Aged homegrown Cascade hops in the boil.

The extent of the influence of aged hops on sour beer is still a bit underestimated. While the generally stated goal is preventing rapid souring by Lactobacillus in a traditionally fermented lambic, what they add to the flavor and what particular characteristics of the hops best serve this isn't widely studied. There are a few studies that oxidation can boost certain fruity aromatics. Which has lead Scott to threaten to use old hops on the hot-side for a NEIPA... he promised to do a test batch before brewing a 10 bbl batch on the new Sapwood Cellars brewhouse.

I thought it would be fun to brew with aged Cascades from the bines in my backyard, especially because fresh they didn't have a huge aroma. They'd been sitting open in my basement since they were dried a few years before. 

Flour slurry pouring in.

I don't have the space or effort to grow or malt grain, so I took the easy way out and brewed with wheat malt extract (a blend of 65% wheat malt 35% barley). I'd had good results from extract lambics previously, but this time in addition to maltodextrin I added wheat flour slurry to the boil. Mixing the flour with cold water prevents it from clumping when it touches the boiling wort. A turbid mash pulls starch from the unmalted wheat into the boil, which eventually feeds the various microbes in the late-stages of fermentation. The microbes must have enjoyed it as the resulting beers are completely clear.

All of the frozen berries (cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries.

Fruit was provided by our four berry trees/bushes. Sour cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry. To keep things easy I added roughly equal amount of each (other than the raspberries). I briefly froze most of the fruit, but I added the raspberries a small handful at a time as they ripen slower than the rest. I only had enough of each for one gallon of beer, as most of the rest of the fruit was spoken for. The leftover beer went onto local plums!

Video Review



Backyard Berries

Smell – Cherry and raspberry lead, not surprising as they are more distinct than the blackberry and mulberry. There is an underlining wine-iness that likely comes from the rest of the fruit. The base beer behind the fruit doesn't make itself known other than a subtle maltiness.

Appearance – Clear garnet on the first pour, a little haze when I emptied the bottle into the glass. Alright head retention thanks to the wheat.

Taste – Reminds of the nose with raspberry up front and cherry jam into the finish. Not as bright and fresh as it once was, but still reasonably fresh. The malt and hops don’t add a huge amount of character, but they support the fruit. The Wyeast lambic blend similarly stays mostly out of the way, adding edge complexity without trying to fight through the fruit.

Mouthfeel – Not a thick beer given the relatively low OG, and all of the simple sugars from the fruit. Solid carbonation, CBC-1 did a good job despite the acidity.

Drinkability & Notes – The combination of four berries works surprisingly well to my palate. They play together without becoming generic fruitiness. The base beer is unremarkable, but that’s fine in a beer where the fruit is the star.

Changes for Next Time – Would be nice to brew more than a gallon, but otherwise my only real changes would be to go all-grain.

The finished mixed-berry sour beer.

Plum-Bus

The rest of the batch went onto a two varieties of local plums. I've brewed with plums before in a dubbel. I wasn't sure about plums in a pale beer, but after trying spectacular examples from Tilquin and Casey I was convinced!

Smell – Clear it isn’t a kettle-soured fruit-bomb, lots of lemon pith and mineral along with the moderate fruit contribution. Plums aren’t nearly as aromatic as the more common sour beer fruits, but they add a depth without covering up the base beer.

Appearance – Beer is more rusty-gold than purple. Clear despite the flour. Thin white head, but this bottle appears less carbonated than the last few I’ve opened.

Plum sour beer.

Taste – Tangy plum skin, apricot, and lemon. Beautiful blend of fruit and beer. Wyeast Lambic Blend with dreg-augmentation again does a really nice job. Strong lactic acid without any vinegar or nail polish. Finish is moderate funk, hay, and overripe stone fruit.

Mouthfeel – Light, but not thin. Carbonation is too low, maybe the cap-job on this one wasn’t perfect.

Drinkability & Notes – Delicious. The plum could be a little juicier and fresher, but it works well. Sad I didn’t leave any of this half unfruited for comparison.

Changes for Next Time – I’d like to keep experimenting with other plum varieties in beer. Glad the pale base worked out well. Despite “plum” being a common descriptor for darker Belgians, actual plums don’t shine with all of that malt.

Defrosting plums in a 3 gallon Better Bottle.

Recipe

Batch Size: 10.00 gal
SRM: 5.5
IBU: 5.3
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.006/1.006
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 3.45/3.45
Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
----------------
92.3% - 9 lbs Breiss Bavarian Wheat DME
5.1% - .5 lbs Maltodextrin Powder
2.6% - .25 lbs King Arthur All Purpose Flour

Hops
-------
2.50 oz - Homegrown Cascade: Aged 3-4 Years (Whole, ~1.00% AA) @ 90 min

Yeast
-------
Wyeast Belgian Lambic Blend
or
Omega OYL-218 - All The Bretts
Omega OYL-057 - HotHead Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 1/15/17

Hops were homegrown and aged open over several years.

Fermented and aged in 6 gallon BetterBottle without transfering. Added some various dregs over the course of fermentation.

7/21/17 Filled a 1 gallon jug with the Wyeast half onto 6 oz each homegrown sour cherries, blackberries, and mulberries (plus maybe an ounce of raspberries - maybe 4 oz total over a couple months). The remainder went onto 3 lbs of methly plums.

8/24/17 Added an additional 1.75 lbs of Castleton plums to the plum portion

12/14/17 Bottled the 2.75 gallons of the plum with 61 g of table sugar and rehydrated CBC-1. Bottled the .8 gallons of backyard fruit with 21 g of table sugar and CBC-1.

All the fruit growing in my backyard!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Brewery Clubs: Both Sides

The first beer club I joined was Lost Abbey’s Patron Sinners in 2008. It was a relatively novel idea at the time, essentially a CSA for beer. It was the easiest way for me to get bottles I’d heard such wonderful things about. Clearly the concept has caught on. For breweries it is an easy win, money months before the beer is ready. For consumers it can be a win, access to limited beers without the need to wake-up early or wait in line.

It’s an easier ask if the beers offered already have a good reputation. Signing up for Lost Abbey's club meant an opportunity to try "whales" like Cuvee de Tomme for the first time. It also gave me access to their microbes… those Red Poppy dregs colonized our first wine barrel for the group Flanders Red.

For Sapwood Cellars, Scott and I are in a bit of a unique situation. Many more of you have read about our homebrew-exploits, listened to us talk brewing, and brewed recipes based on ours than have actually tasted anything we’ve personally brewed (although you may have tasted something I collaborated or consulted on). Although I've been surprised how many people who signed-up mentioned tasting our test batches at festivals as a deciding factor!

Sapwood-Modern Time Collaboration - The Fruitening!

With the barrel program we have planned there is a bunch on money required now: barrels, racks, microbes, equipment, and wort-production. All for beers that we won’t be able to sell until 2019 or even 2020. If you choose to join, your money will go directly to allowing us to get more beer into barrels in the next few months. That will in turn provide a greater variety of stock available for blending, fruiting, and dry hopping. Our goal is to extend our homebrewing roots as long as we can, producing weird and wonderful beers… and dumping beers that aren’t up to our standards!

I completely understand if you don't want to spend $200-500 to buy beers that we haven't brewed or even named yet. I don't want anyone angering a spouse, or blowing their annual beer budget. Most of our beers will be readily available at the taproom, and I'd guess that there will be extra club slots available for 2020. Honestly I see the Wood club as good for someone who lives a less-than convenient trip to the brewery and can only visit a few times a year (but wants to know they can go home with a variety of sour bottles). The Sap club is good for someone local who plans to be a regular and loves fresh hoppy stuff.

We take the trust that people are putting in us seriously. We'll do our best to make sure that not only do you get beer, but it is the best possible beer we can create. That said, there is certainly a chance timelines will be slower than we expect and I'd rather have the final allocation of great beer in early 2020 than rushed bottles with carbonation issues in late 2019.

If you'd rather an experience over beer, today we launched opportunities to join me for a web chat about our sour beers, blending session, commercial brew day, and homebrewing. Most of these are permanently gone once the stock hits zero. There are also a couple slots for a group or anyone who has recently won the lottery to have us design a sour beer or hoppy batch to your tastes, we'll likely do a few of those each year. We still have plenty of merch available as well (shirts, glasses, and inscribed copies of American Sour Beers) for people who can't make it to the brewery!


We should be able to finally brew our first 10 bbl batch in the next few weeks. The last major piece of equipment to arrive is our glycol chiller, scheduled for next Wednesday. All of the piping is run for it already and the concrete pad it will sit on is curing. Other than that, a gas-meter upgrade and a tweak to the usage listed on a 1979 site development plan are the only things between us and opening!

Our first batch is going to be a kitchen-sink brew using the leftover ingredients from the brewery that was previously in the space. It was crushed 18-months ago… we’ll be giving away the wort to anyone interested! Of course, club members will get first dibs... but I'm guessing there will be second and third dibs at least!

I'm shocked at how amazing the response has already been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has helped give us a little extra cash buffer, the beer (and our sleep) will be the better for it! We started with 50 memberships for our Founders Club... and they are all gone! Still plenty of the two individual clubs available for the time being, and we'll leave them up until the 2018 (unless they sell-out first).

---------------------------------

Sap Club 2018-2019

Sap Club Membership entitles you to $1/off each full pour or growler at our tasting room with a sweet membership card. It also allows you to purchase growler fills of any fresh hoppy beers, even the special kegs and weird experiments that no one else can bring home - in your club exclusive 1 L growler. Includes admission for two to our annual holiday party (December 2018) and pre-release access to canned IPAs (when that finally happen). This inaugural “year” of the club will run from opening through the end of 2019. First-year members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

Wood Club 2019

The Wood club is for sour and funky folks. Membership grants you two .5L bottles of each of our first eight barrel-aged sour/funky bottle releases. This will include at least two releases exclusive to club members - using fruits and other ingredients too rare or costly for large batches. We won’t have a set release schedule as the beers will tell us when they are ready, but we'll allow semi-annual pickups. Plus $2 off and priority access to pre-purchase limited sour beers before the unwashed masses! You’ll also receive a Sapwood decanting basket. 2019 members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

---------------------------------

In news closer to the blog, Mad Fermentationist T-shirts are available again, this time print-on-demand style. I've also got posters of the updated Brewery Connections graphic... which will feature prominently in the Sapwood Cellars bathroom decor!


Monday, July 23, 2018

Rye NEIPA with Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc

Squeeze that grain bag!If you've followed this blog, you've likely picked-up on my my interest in low-alcohol hoppy beers. For example 3.6% ABV Vienna IPA2.3% Session NEIPA, all the way down to this 2.1% Nelson Wheat-IPA. I'm always looking for new techniques to shoehorn the body, malt flavor, and balance associated with IPAs into a smaller package.

This batch was inspired by a couple of rye-heavy table beer that James Spencer shared with me (video of his process). Rye malt is a powerhouse of mouthfeel, and meshes well with hoppy beers. I paired it with Golden Naked Oats in an attempt to infuse more malt flavor and perceived sweetness.

For a grain bill with more beta glucan than husk the only option is brew in a bag (BIAB)... or start buying rice hulls by the sack. I further enhanced the malt flavor by using a 165F (74C) mash to allow me to add more grain without increasing the ABV. Add to that a quick 30 minute boil, and it was an easy brew day.

I've used Mosaic many times, but Hallertau Blanc only once in this Alsatian Saison. I've always associated the flavors I get from these two varieties with that of Nelson Sauvin. It all made sense when I read all three contain the same thiol 3S4MP, which is also a signature of Sauvignon blanc wine and provides a grapefruit-rhubarb aroma. With the increasing demand for Nelson, it made sense to see if the other two in combination could serve as a passable replacement.

The old laptop I wrote American Sour Beers on...As if this beer didn't need another twist, it was my first time attempting to use sound waves to speed dry hop extraction. I'm not the first one to pump decibels into beer (Cambridge Brewing, Green Man, and Baladin all have), but I'm not aware of anyone doing it specifically for dry hopping. When you add pellets they have a tendency to either float, or sink to the bottom. Either way it isn't ideal for extraction. Playing 80 Hz through an old USB speaker  vibrated the BrewBucket pretty well, hopefully increasing the beer-hop contact. Hard to know how much it accomplished without a control...

Look for my Brew Your Own article about Table Beers in the October issue where I go more into depth on this batch and an ESB that I mashed at 70F!

Rye Table Pale Ale (RTPA) 

Smell – Good Nelson-reminiscent gooseberry Sauvignon blanc wininess from the hops. Herbal notes too from the Hallertau Blanc. Without the alcohol as a vector for the dry hops, the aroma doesn’t pop - or maybe the sound waves drove out CO2 and aromatics with it. A light graininess fills in the gaps in the hop aroma.

Appearance – Hazy without particulate after three weeks cold. Ultra-pale, almost looks like a cloudy Berliner weisse. Head retention is pretty good for such a small beer, but the bubbles are bigger and less stable than the dense foam of my NEIPAs.

Taste – Hop flavor is stronger than the nose. Similar white wine flavors, but with a subtle berry flavor from the Mosaic. Mid-palate is a tad lacking in terms of malt flavor, but the hops linger into the finish covering for it. Bitterness is present, but restrained, just about right for this lean beer. Tastes like beer rather than a malt soda.

Mouthfeel – The body is remarkable for a beer under 2% ABV - a friend called it "creamy" in a blind tasting. Moderate carbonation doesn’t disrupt.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m not sure I’ve brewed a beer that I want to drink more of in a session. One of those that doesn’t wow unless you know what is special about it.

Changes for Next Time – Would be interesting to add some light crystal malt and/or Vienna to try to increase the malt flavor. The body is there. For the hops I might go 2:1 in favor of Mosaic and add a second dry hop to try to enhance the aroma.

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 5.6
IBU: 44.5
OG: 1.029
FG: 1.015
ABV: 1.84%
Final pH: 4.52
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73%
Boil Time: 30 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
72.4% - 5.25 lbs Briess Rye Malt
27.6% - 2.0 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 165F

Hops
-------
2.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellets, 10.50% AA) @ 185F for 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ 185F for 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellets, 10.50% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
2.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Water
-------
10 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
3 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10% @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
170
30
10
5
40

Other
-------
.5 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Yeast
-------
SafAle English Ale S-04

Notes
-------
Brewed 6/9/18 with Spencer (Sapwood's tasting room manager)

BIAB.

Mashed with 4 gallons distilled, 2 gallons of DC tap.

Topped up with 2 gallons of DC and .5 gallons of distilled.

Cool to 185F for 30 whirlpool addition.

Chilled to 75F. Moved to fridge set to 45 for a few hours to cool. Pitched at 62F, set to 68F to allow to warm.

Dry hopped after 48 hours. Hit with 80 hz for 24 hours immediately after adding hops.

Kegged 6/15/18 FG 1.014, 52% AA (1.84% ABV).

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Craft Beer Connections - Brewery Influence Web

The newest version of the graphic can be seen here!

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On Friday I posted a visualization of the connections between the ownership of American breweries, both craft and macro. I was inspired by this graphic of American food companies and leaned heavily on existing aggregations. The response was enthusiastic. Between Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit it was viewed ~150,000 times, plus being featured in a Paste Magazine article.


However, it's the Internet so of course there were complaints:

- You're missing (insert recently sold or Canadian brewery)!

- You're lumping in total ownership with partial!

- List the rest of the 124 AB InBev owned breweries!

- That brewery is closed now!

- That logo is for the 7 Bridges in Da Nang, not Jacksonville!

I spent far too many hours over the weekend correcting, tweaking, and expanding the graphic to address many of those issues. Thanks to those who created other sources I could use as source material (/u/Hraes' spreadsheet, Craft Beer Joe, Philip H Howard, and of course Wikipedia).

Any visualization is a balancing act of information and intelligibility. My first version was likely too simple to provide any deep understanding of the complex web of brewery ownership... while the updated version may be so complex that it is overwhelming (and that's still without 108 AB Inbev brands).


Feel free to let me know if I missed anything. I intentionally left-off private equity firms that own a piece of a single craft brewery (e.g., BrueryStone). I'm sure that there are other conglomerations outside the US that didn't come to mind. It's already starting to look like one of those crazy conspiracy diagrams, so I'm not sure how much more I could add.

With this many complex relationships it is difficult to be completely accurate while maintaining legibility... especially when it comes to unique situations and convoluted relationships. So here it is without distinguishing different levels of ownership.



If you're reading this after July, 2018 don't expect the graphic above to be up-to-date. Obviously no rights other than fair-use claimed on the brewery logos.

I didn't start working on this with the goal of changing what beers people drink. I don't refuse to buy beer from "sellout" breweries... but all-else equal, I'd rather my dollars didn't go to a company that uses its size to muscle small craft breweries off the store shelf or tap list (for example). It's the same reason I stopped shopping at Northern Brewer and Midwest. In that regard there is a big difference between breweries owned by AB InBev, and to a lesser extend Molson-Coors, compared to those owned by CANarchy and Duvel-Moortgat. Even with those though, I'd rather support a small brewery where the money goes back into the brewery, rather than a private equity firm or international conglomerate.

Independent craft beer isn't always delicious. Wide-scale distribution of delicate beers takes both skilled brewers and a level of packaging and distribution channels that many small breweries don't have funding for. That said, I'm not going to buy an insipid or uninspired beer simply because it has a low-level of DO (dissolved oxygen) and an absence of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. There are enough great beers available that I don't need to sacrifice on quality or consistency!

Here is an interesting piece on the Old Dominion-Fordham relationship with AB InBev. Jim Lutz, CEO: "In the years I’ve been here I’ve only met with the AB InBev people twice..." I was fond of Old Dominion before they were acquired in 2007. The first noticeable change was that the tasting room went from smoke-free to smoking permitted. Pretty quickly they closed the brewery in Ashburn, VA and moved production to Fordham's facility in Delaware. The old head brewer didn't follow (he, along with the equipment, became Lost Rhino). I may be out of the loop, but I remember Old Dominion producing a few interesting beers (like their Millennium barleywine aged in barrels... and even a version with Brett). Now all I see from them are pin-up girl logos and uninspired beers. Whether that is the result of AB InBev or the brewery itself doesn't change many of the reasons I don't buy their beers.

While the Brewers Association had to draw a line somewhere for what is craft, I don't find anything special about the 25% non-craft brewery ownership definition. What really matters is the relationship between the brewery and ownership. How much control of the beers is put into the hands of marketing or accounting? What sorts of incentives/investments are there for brewing innovation versus sales growth. Are resources primarily used to increase consistency/quality, or reduce costs? In the past BA has been all too happy to raise the barrels-per-year cap for Boston Beer, even though producing ~4,000,000 bbls/year as a publicly-traded company owned by a billionaire puts their trade-group needs much closer to a macro brewer than it does mine as a ~1,000 bbl/year start-up brewery.

We're at an interesting time in the growth of craft beer, hopefully the visualization helps illustrate that!